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Proposed law would put cameras in operating rooms

WISCONSIN (CBS 58) -- Airplanes have black boxes, police officers have body cams. Now, a measure at the capitol would bring recording devices to a new field. 

State Representative Christine Sinicki heard from families around the state whose loved ones died in operating rooms. They found it difficult to find out what happened in those surgeries and as a result, "Julie's Law" was born. 

After his sister Julie died unexpectedly in 2003, Wade Ayer decided something had to change. 

"There's a sense of loss in the system," said Ayer, who claims his sister died from medical malpractice. 

38-year-old Julie Ayer went in for a breast augmentation surgery in Florida. Records show she flatlined and doctors waited several minutes before starting chest compressions. She was flown back to Wisconsin where she died three months later.

 "The doctor had no license in anesthesia. He was required by state medical law to have an anesthesiologist present. He decided knowingly and conscientiously to bypass this and operate," said Ayer. 

Now, more than a decade later, Ayer has made it his mission to get justice for his sister. He wants to increase transparency in operating rooms and teamed up with Rep. Sinicki to create "Julie's Law." The law would allow patients to request audio and visual recordings of what goes on in operating rooms. 

"No one wants to attack medical professionals for every time something goes wrong. This bill just allows the opportunity to record procedures to either identify a possible human error or potentially protect medical professionals by demonstrating that they did nothing wrong," says Rep. Sinicki (D). 

When Rep. Sinicki introduced a similar bill in 2015, six state medical organizations registered against it. The Wisconsin Hospital Association even sent out a memo encouraging other lawmakers not to co-sign the bill. Doctors say the measure would interfere with their ability to do their job. 

"It changes the whole milieu of what's going on in the operating room, which is already a somewhat high-stress situation. It seems to me for no good reason since we have high quality already," said Bud Chumbley, CEO of the Wisconsin Medical Society. 

A 2016 study by researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine says medical errors should rank as the third leading cause of death in the United States and advocates say cameras have increased accountability in other fields. 

"With the successful implementation of cameras in other areas of our lives, like transportation and law enforcement, why are they not in an area where lives are so clearly on the line," says Chris Nowakowski, who says his wife died from medical malpractice. 

No other states currently have a law in place requiring that cameras be allowed in operating rooms. The bill will have to be assigned a committee before it can move forward, but it did not receive a hearing last session. 

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